Interview with comedian D.L. Hughley 


D.L. Hughley
Where: Morty’s Comedy Joint, 3625 E. 96th St.
When: Dec. 26-28, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, 6:30 and 9 p.m. Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday
Admission: $29-$32
Information: (317) 848-5500

Comedian D.L. Hughley never hesitates to say what he thinks, and right now he’s saying he feels sorry for President Bush.

“First, people think your presidency is so bad that you get a black guy elected to the White House,” Hughley says. “Then somebody throws shoes at you. And it’s funny the way the pundits try to explain it: In the Arab world, throwing a shoe is the highest form of disrespect. That ain’t just the Arab world. If someone throws a shoe at you in Indianapolis, you’d better believe they don’t like you. Some things are universal. Math is universal, science is universal and if you throw a shoe at somebody, that’s pretty much universal.”

At the moment, Hughley’s on vacation from his new CNN show, “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News” (10 p.m. Saturdays), a weekly news-comedy show that features his take on current events, interviews with newsmakers and topical comedy sketches. (Indianapolis native Hugh Fink is one of his writers and performers.) So he’s taking the opportunity to do some standup — and do a phone interview to talk about doing standup.

NUVO: You must love standup to come here when it’s 3 degrees.

Hughley: I didn’t know it was going to be 3 degrees when I took the gig. That might make me rethink it.

NUVO: But I get the impression standup is the medium where you’re most comfortable.

Hughley: I can’t argue that. It’s the only thing I actually feel comfortable doing. I’ll see stuff on the news and I can’t wait to get on stage. That has to be tempered with the fact that it should be warmer than 3 degrees. But I just love doing standup. It’s the last great art form and it’s probably the last place as far as entertainment goes where people actually take the chance to tell at least a little truth, from their perspective. It is the most spontaneous, and it is the place where people speaking truth to power live. I love it.

NUVO: So do you do things like the CNN show to challenge yourself?

Hughley: We were originally going to go with one of the other cable outlets, but they came along and made an offer and it was probably the most interesting offer I’d ever heard. It was an opportunity to do it in a place that no one had ever traditionally seen comedy. Sometimes, it would be a bit like doing comedy in a foreign land, but it’s the most fun I think I’ve had in television.

NUVO: You had a line on the show recently that went something like: “Everyone got what they wanted this year. Black people got Obama and white people got O.J.” Which race do you think was happier?

Hughley: (Laughs) It’s unequivocal. More people were more exuberant about having a black president than they were about seeing O.J. get his just desserts. You could actually hear the fates laughing: We’re going to give you a black president, but it’s going to cost you O.J. Seems like a fair trade.

NUVO: Were you disappointed not to get the timeslot after Letterman?

Hughley: I was. Certainly, yes. But I’m very happy that this worked out. Yes, I was very disappointed. I thought we worked hard and I always wanted to do late night. But to be doing comedy where I am, in a place where nobody’s ever traditionally seen it, and to be breaking new ground is exciting. But I’d be less than truthful if I didn’t tell you that it stung a little bit.

NUVO: In a situation like that, what happens? Do you register your disapproval? Do you just go, “Oh, well,” and walk away?

Hughley: I think you let people know how displeased you are but stop short of being Kanye West. I felt like they made a decision I wouldn’t have made, but I wasn’t crippled by it. It wouldn’t be the first job I didn’t get. Everybody in this business is used to hearing “no.” But I’m in a different place now. They’re doing what they’re doing and I’m excited about where we’re at. I’m as happy for [Craig Ferguson] as you can be for somebody who walked away with the girl you wanted.

NUVO: Is the CNN show shaping up the way you wanted?

Hughley: It really is. We are really starting to shape up and become the kind of show I want. From the time we signed the contract to the first show was like 10 days. That never happens in television. But the kinds of access and the kinds of conversations I get to have and the kinds of newsmakers I get to talk to, that’s very fulfilling. I’m having a great time.

NUVO: You said the Rutgers women’s basketball team was ugly, which seems to support Don Imus. You told [gay sex advice columnist] Dan Savage you don’t condone a gay lifestyle. And you said Barack Obama had your vote but not necessarily your trust. What’s worse — that you said these things or that people have tried to shout you down for saying these things?

Hughley: (Laughs) I don’t think it’s my job or my responsibility to have any opinion other than mine and to listen to what other people have to say. But I don’t think I said anything that was unreasonable. As far as the Imus thing, I think he made a bad joke on a slow news week. Once time had gone by, everybody realized how little import it had. The whole thing was a tempest in a teapot.

When I was talking to Dan Savage, a guy I like and respect and am a fan of … somebody asked me, when I said I didn’t condone the gay lifestyle, “What if somebody said they don’t like black people?” I said that would be all right. My job is not to make people like black people or dislike black people. I only care when they enact laws that treat people unfairly.

As far as the Obama thing goes, politicians lie for a living. I’ve been following politics for a long time. This isn’t something I just got into. It didn’t become popular because of the guy who was running and I stepped in and decided to become politically aware. This is always something I’ve done. When I look at what’s going on with (Illinois Gov. Rod) Blagojevich, he’s in trouble for trying to sell influence — basically, trying to sell a Senate seat. He has something valuable. Illinois has had four of the last eight governors be indicted and three have been convicted. That says as much about the people of Illinois as it says about the politicians. Nobody does anything for nothing.

I find it interesting that Caroline Kennedy endorsed Obama and now she’s asking for a Senate seat. You have people who tell people what they want to hear, people who kind of peddle influence, people who make promises they know they can’t keep. If I push them at arm’s length and make sure I have a level of perspective before I make a decision about whether I trust somebody, what’s wrong with that? My whole position is: Why don’t we wait and see if what he says is true — like I would do for any human being. I’m elated that a black man is in the White House. But he’s a politician. And everything I know about him, I know because he told me.


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